Taking Charge- Earning Your PSG’s Trust
On his first day as a platoon leader, the lieutenant sat down with his platoon sergeant to give him his initial counseling. He had spent the past two months in the battalion’s S-3 shop, waiting for a platoon to become available. He hadn’t enjoyed the staff work, but he did appreciate the thorough initial counseling that the S-3 had given him on his first day.
Modeling the S-3's method, the new platoon leader reviewed his platoon sergeant’s Enlisted Record Brief with him, asked about his family, shared some things about himself, and laid out his expectations for the NCO that he hoped would be his right-hand man. Then he asked the SFC what his expectations were for his new platoon leader.
“Just do your job, sir,” replied his platoon sergeant.
That’s what I need you to help me figure out, he thought.
The first few days as a platoon leader were awkward. The NCO whom he had watched joke around so often with the previous platoon leader was being quiet and distant with him. The SFC answered all the new butterbar’s questions professionally, yet he felt uneasy; he wanted them to be close and work as a team. The new PL wondered what he wasn’t doing right.
A week later, the battalion was in the field on its intensive-training cycle. The platoon’s first mission was a movement to contact at night. As the PL was leading his platoon down the street, a sniper opened fire on them. The PL maneuvered his soldiers on the sniper—and into a baited ambush. The experience felt overwhelming—casualties; his company commander on the net demanding reports; hearing his battalion commander pinging his company commander for information; a scout helicopter pilot asking incessantly for more information; controlling his squads. It didn’t help that the PL’s laser beam from his PEQ-2 looked the same as that of his Soldiers, so he couldn’t use it to mark locations, and that his AN/PVS-14 was not working correctly.
After the mission, the PL found some time alone with his platoon sergeant.
“I have to admit, Sergeant, that was pretty overwhelming for me. Any advice for how I can do better?”
“Sir, you did pretty good,” assured the NCO who had combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq under his belt. “Next time, though, don’t worry so much about the casualties; that’s my job. And don’t worry so much about….” The platoon sergeant talked his young lieutenant through the entire engagement, offering tips on everything from how much guidance the squad leaders really need in that type of situation to how essential the PL is in painting the picture for higher and in bringing in additional assets to the fight. He also helped the PL figure out a way for his PEQ-2 beam to be distinctive, as well as gave him a quick lesson on using a PVS-14.
A week later, their battalion was called in from the field to deploy on short notice. A month later, the PL found himself conducting combat operations in Iraq. One night as he sat in the tent he shared with his platoon sergeant talking about the day’s patrol, it hit the PL — the SFC was talking and joking around with him the way he had with the previous platoon leader. They were a team.
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